“Misery is ever courteous of company…”

Lock-down has, converse to what many of us imagined when it began, been an unproductive time for many Teesside writers, myself among them. Surprisingly while a lot of writing involves voluntary spurning the rest of humanity to isolate yourself behind a keyboard, when you are actually forced to spurn the rest of humanity and isolate yourself it becomes harder to be creative and the keyboard becomes so much more daunting. Now there is a twist no one saw coming…

I will admit that a bunch of writers struggling to find those ever-elusive narrative partials is far from the worst thing about lock-down. As social problems go, it is a long way from the top of anyone’s list, including the writers themselves. But it isn’t just writers who seem to be having a creative slump. The lock-down malaise has affected the majority of those who participate in the creative arts of any kind.

There was a spike early on when creative people were all doing video uploads and trying to find new interesting ways of getting out there, without getting out there… Musicians were recording live concerts from their living rooms… Poets were doing video poetry slams… Authors were doing reading on live chats… artists and crafters were producing how to art and craft you-tubes… There was a brief but noticeable upsurge of creative people pitching in to entertain the housebound masses in a blitz-type spirit of ‘we are all in this together’. But this was itself was one of the contributing factors to the slump that followed. The pressure to be creative, pressure many creative people put on themselves to reach out and be there for a shell-shocked society, smothered the very creativity it was trying to force.

I struggled to write, or more exactly I struggled with the will to write. The novel I was working on at the start of lock-down stuttered to a halt and sits waiting on my hard drive for me to get back to it. The novel I took back up in an attempt get past the slump by changing lanes fared little better. Even my own blog became something of a chore, then dried up completely for a while. The knowledge I was not alone in this creative slump did not come to me until later when connecting to fellow Teesside writers, of which there is a large and vibrant community. The knowledge that no one else was writing ‘the great lock-down novel’ didn’t help me get past the slump, though misery is ever courteous of company, it did however stop me feeling quite so alone and adrift amid the lock-down.

This is one of the reason why local writers’ groups are good for the soul (my own is currently an online affair of course). There are several in Teesside, though which would be right for you might be a matter of trial and error, but they are worth seeking out. Writing is a solitary pursuit much of the time, so it’s good to meet with fellow writers, if only to know they are struggling with the same things you are.

Somewhere in this long cruel summer of isolation, the creativity has started to creep back and the keyboard has started to tap. The narrative partials have started to spark once more and while it’s not yet a river, words have started once more to flow. There may not be any great lockdown novels written, but a few great post-lockdown novels are starting to emerge.

Mark Hayes is a Teesside-based author of science fiction and steampunk. Information about his books and many other things can be found on his website at markhayesblog.com